Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Border Security
Select Committee on Homeland Security
September 17, 2003
My name is Denise Swink. I am Acting Director and
Deputy Director of the Office of Energy Assurance in the U.S.
Department of Energy,
a position I have held since March of this year. The Office of
Energy Assurance is responsible for leading the Department of
effort to ensure a secure and reliable flow of energy to America’s
homes, businesses, industries, and critical infrastructures. Energy
assurance addresses a variety of potential threats including natural
disasters, accidents, terrorism, aging assets, system reliability,
and cascading failures involving related infrastructures. DOE’s
Office of Energy Assurance addresses these threats using several
strategies: protection of energy systems, detecting problems
quickly, mitigating the impact of a failure or attack, and recovering
from damage. We work in close collaboration with the Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) and in partnership with the energy
industry, state and local governments, and other federal agencies.
of the importance of energy assurance, my Office reports directly
to the Deputy Secretary of Energy.
The Office fulfills key federal responsibilities
for energy assurance that date back to the origins of the Department
of Energy. Selected
legislative authorities include the Department of Energy Organization
Act, the Federal Energy Administration Act of 1974, the Federal
Power Act, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978,
and the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance
Act. Many of these authorities address the powers and responsibilities
of the Secretary of Energy during energy emergencies but some
cover the broad responsibilities of the Secretary in ensuring that
have available an adequate and reliable supply of energy. The
Office also fulfills federal responsibilities for securing and
the energy infrastructure that are outlined in the President’s
National Strategy for Homeland Security and the President’s
National Energy Policy.
The Office of Energy Assurance focuses on six priority areas that
address these responsibilities and respond to the findings of leading
studies of the reliability of the energy infrastructure conducted
over the past seven years and vulnerability assessments conducted
after September 11, 2001. The six focus areas are: 1) Energy Emergency
Support and Management, 2) State and Local Government Support,
3) Criticality of Energy Assets, 4) Enabling Partnerships, 5) Technology
Development and Application, and 6) Policy and Analysis Support.
These are all critical elements of developing a balanced approach
to our immediate energy protection needs and our longer term energy
The Nation’s energy infrastructure is vast, complex, and
highly interconnected. It encompasses a multitude of power plants,
electric transmission and distribution lines, oil and gas production
sites, pipelines, storage facilities, port facilities, information
and control systems, and other assets that are integrated into
our national energy system. This energy infrastructure is also
the backbone for other critical infrastructures such as telecommunications,
transportation, and banking and finance. In addition, there are
a large number of entities that own, operate, finance, supply,
control, build, regulate, monitor, and oversee our energy infrastructure.
Eighty-five percent of the Nation’s infrastructure is owned
by the private sector. Regulation and oversight of energy production,
generation, transportation, transmission, and use is governed
by a host of federal agencies and states. As a result, a successful
program in energy assurance must involve a collaborative approach
that includes public-private partnerships to coordinate the various
players and activities.
Coordination and collaboration are central principles of our approach
to energy assurance. President Bush stated that homeland security
is a shared responsibility that requires a national strategy and
compatible, mutually supporting state, local and private sector
strategies. This approach was embodied in the National Strategy
for Homeland Security. The Department of Energy has lead federal
responsibility for working with the energy sector in protecting
critical infrastructures and key assets, in collaboration with
the Department of Homeland Security. Two additional strategies,
the National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures
and Key Assets, and the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace,
expound on this responsibility and direct the Department of Energy
to develop and maintain collaborative relationships with state
and local governments and energy industry participants.
We work closely with the Department of Homeland Security, which
leads, integrates, and coordinates critical infrastructure protection
activities across the federal government. To aid this effort, DOE
and DHS are in the process of developing a Memorandum of Agreement
between the two agencies that will outline specific areas of collaboration
and responsibilities. This encompasses critical infrastructure
protection of physical and cyber assets, science and technology,
and emergency response. We are also beginning to work with key
parts of DHS, such as the Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA), to determine how best to coordinate our
efforts. For example, in July we attended a meeting which included
representatives of DOE, DHS, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and
the National Institute of Standards and Technology to consider
options for developing a collaborative National SCADA Program.
This program would help improve the physical and cyber security
of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, which
are used in the energy sector to remotely control and manage the
flow of electric power and fuels throughout the energy infrastructure.
We also work with other federal agencies that have
energy-related responsibilities. We work closely with the Department
Office of Pipeline Safety to coordinate our respective efforts
and identify areas for collaboration. We also coordinate with the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to avoid redundant efforts
with petrochemical facilities. During the recent blackout, we assisted
EPA in their review of Michigan’s fuel waiver, which was
ultimately granted. The waiver allowed the sale of 9 RVP gasoline
in lieu of 7.8 RVP gasoline, which created more available resources
for the State of Michigan and thereby prevented a possible gasoline
shortage. We also partnered with several federal agencies (including
the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)), state regulators,
and industry to assess the implications of a loss of natural gas
supply to certain regions of the country. This study will help
government policymakers and the natural gas industry to reduce
the industry’s vulnerability to terrorism, operational
disruptions, and natural disasters.
Within the Department of Energy, we coordinate across a variety
* DOE’s new Office of Electric Transmission
and Distribution on issues related to the electric grid, most
notably the recent
blackout, which I will expand upon later;
* The Office of Security to improve the operations of DOE’s
Emergency Operation Center.
* The Chief Information Officer on the development of a joint
facility to support continuity of operations;
* The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s
regional offices to support our meetings with state energy
* The Office of Fossil Energy on new technologies to harden
oil and gas pipelines;
* The Office of Science on visualization techniques through
their Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program; and
* The Office of Independent Oversight and Performance Assurance
on cyber security protection.
Collaboration with the private sector is critical
to improving energy assurance. As part of the President’s strategy, we
have designated “sector liaisons” to work with the
electricity and oil and gas sectors. These liaisons in turn employ “sector
coordinators” who function as DOE’s primary interfaces
on energy infrastructure security issues. DOE’s sector liaisons
share information and discuss coordination mechanisms with the
American Petroleum Institute (API), the American Gas Association
(AGA), the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA),
the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), the National Propane Gas Association
(NPRA), the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), the Electric Power
Research Institute (EPRI), the National Rural Electric Cooperative
Association (NRECA), the American Public Power Association (APPA),
and the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC). For
example, we are participating in NERC’s Critical Infrastructure
Protection Advisory Group and have briefed them on our activities
related to electric reliability and cyber protection. We have
had similar discussions on our oil and gas activities with API,
serves as the sector coordinator for oil and gas. To help create
a strong business case for security investment, we are also collaborating
on potential studies with the Council on Competitiveness.
States and local governments are also essential parts of energy
assurance. They are responsible for emergency planning and response,
and are the organizations that citizens turn to in times of crisis.
We support a variety of state efforts to plan for, respond to,
and mitigate actions that adversely affect the energy infrastructure
and disrupt energy supplies. In the short time our program has
been in existence, we have held several meetings with the National
Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), the National Governors
Association (NGA), the National Association of Regulatory Utility
Commissioners (NARUC), and the National Conference of State Legislatures
(NCSL) to better understand how we can assist the states with emergency
planning, emergency response tools, training and education, and
elevating public awareness. We funded an NCSL study of energy security
guidelines and options for state legislatures which was published
in April 2003. We have additional efforts underway to develop model
state guidelines for energy assurance plans and improved systems
and procedures for multi-state coordination.
There are several other types of coordination underway
which deserve mention. First and foremost, we tap the excellent
and technical resources of our national laboratories to address
assurance issues. DOE has already identified over 500 ongoing
activities in the national laboratories related to the protection
of our Nation’s
critical infrastructures. We have also initiated a Laboratory Coordinating
Council, representing all our major laboratories, to coordinate
capabilities and activities related to infrastructure protection
that can help meet our energy assurance challenges. We are also
working with several universities on physical and cyber security
issues. As part of our technology assessment efforts, we engaged
Carnegie Mellon University to characterize needs related to vulnerabilities
in the electricity sector. We are also exploring opportunities
with George Mason University’s Critical Infrastructure Protection
Project. Our program is utilizing the greatest repository of physical
structure engineering expertise — the International Union
of Operating Engineers (IUOE). DOE and IUOE have begun development
of energy assurance training curricula for energy infrastructure
stakeholder groups, with initial courses offered by the International
Union of Operating Engineers.
As the recent blackout demonstrated, our energy
systems are interconnected with our North American neighbors.
We cannot ignore the importance
of coordinating energy assurance across our borders. Canada’s
electric grid is interconnected with the U.S. grid across our
northern border and nearly all of Canada is an integral part
of three of
the ten NERC regions. As you know, we are currently working with
Canada on the Task Force to investigate the cause of the blackout,
which I will discuss in a moment. Although there are fewer electricity
interconnections with Mexico, there are two small portions of
Mexico that are also part of NERC regions. However, the United
also has bilateral agreements with Mexico under the Mexico-United
States Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Framework for
Cooperation and the Smart Borders Initiative. In these, we agree
mechanisms for exchanging information on threats, sabotage and
terrorist actions and provide coordination and cooperation in
actions and measures to address detected vulnerabilities
The present concern of this Committee is how coordination works
when a critical infrastructure fails, such as in the August 2003
blackout. I mention all these coordination efforts because I believe
they provide the foundation for an effective national response
for energy assurance.
Our process for helping others prepare for emergencies includes
several elements. First, each electric energy provider is required
to file an Emergency Incident and Disturbance Report when a system
disruption occurs that meets certain criteria. An initial report
must be filed within one hour and a final report within 48 hours.
This allows DOE to be aware of potential major electric energy
problems. Second, we provide active support for two Information
Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs): the Energy ISAC (for oil
and gas) and the Electricity Sector ISAC (for electricity). These
ISACs provide a mechanism by which the industry can share important
information about vulnerabilities, threats, intrusions, and anomalies
among energy companies and provides a mechanism to communicate
with the government. The energy ISACs also coordinates with other
ISACs. For example, during the blackout the Electricity Sector
ISAC was in communication with the Telecom ISAC to monitor how
electric problems might affect telecommunications. Our Office is
coordinating with the energy ISACs and providing some financial
support for their operation. Third, DOE participates in the Federal
Response Plan through Emergency Support Function #12, Energy Annex.
In the Plan, which is prepared by DHS/FEMA, DOE is the lead organization
to gather, assess, and share information on energy system damage
and impacts during an emergency.
Let me now review the events that took place immediately after
the blackout occurred and explain how we coordinated within the
Department, with other federal agencies, with the energy sector,
and state and local governments.
On August 14, the Department’s Emergency
Operations Center (EOC) was activated with all relevant staff
Assignments were made regarding monitoring, analysis and mitigation
of the event. Schedules were developed for convening status briefings.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Nuclear Regulatory Commission
and Department of Homeland Security had a continual presence
with their staff, too. DOE had representatives at the DHS Watch
and FEMA Control Center, too.
The security of DOE’s facilities was assessed, and it was
determined that only the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New
York was affected. For that facility, backup emergency power was
available and increased security police personnel were called up
and deployed. DOE’s security activities were coordinated
with the FBI, the National Joint Terrorist Task Force, and DHS.
With respect to monitoring of the event unfolding, an open phone
line was connected to NERC. Market impact assessments were made
continually. Determinations were made on availability of diesel
fuel for backup generators. Availability of additional backup generators
was researched, and commitments for delivery if needed were obtained.
Pipeline outages were assessed to determine if remedial actions
were required. Production availability of refineries was determined,
as were associated cascading impacts of disruptions. These monitoring
and assessment activities led to DOE intervening to encourage more
direct support by electric utilities for bringing petroleum refineries
in Ohio back into production, and ultimately coordinating drive
hour extension and fuel waivers for Michigan.
On August 14, 2003, and only hours after the blackout occurred,
the Secretary issued an order pursuant to his authority under section
202(c) of the Federal Power Act, directing the New England and
New York Independent System Operators to energize and operate the
Cross-Sound Cable. The Secretary issued the order because he determined
that an emergency existed and that issuance of the order would
alleviate the emergency and serve the public interest. Before issuing
the order, the Secretary had received the unanimous recommendation
of the North American Electric Reliability Council, the New York
Independent System Operator (NYISO), ISO New England, Inc. (NEISO),
and electric utilities in both New York and Connecticut supporting
issuance of an emergency order.
The Cable was energized a short time after his order was issued.
Within hours, it was delivering 300 MW of energy from Connecticut
to Long Island and also providing valuable voltage support and
stabilization services for the electric transmission systems in
both New England and New York. It has been reported that operation
of the Cable prevented rolling blackouts from occurring in New
York in the hours immediately after electric service was restored.
On August 28, the Secretary issued another order
that extended indefinitely the period that the Cross-Sound Cable
could be operated.
The August 28 order also directs Cross-Sound to continue providing
voltage support and stabilization services, which benefit the
transmission systems of both New York and New England. The August
28 order stated
that “it has not yet been authoritatively determined what
happened on August 14 to cause the transmission system to fail
resulting in the power outage, or why the system was not able to
stop the spread of the outage.” Because these questions
have not yet been answered, the appropriate responses obviously
not yet been identified or taken. Therefore, the Secretary determined
that an emergency continues to exist and operation of the cable
should continue to be authorized.
With respect to State coordination, affected State Governors were
contacted and an open communication process was established. Direct
communications were established with State Energy Offices.
Letters to Members of Congress were written with
the most current status information, and staff within the Office
and Intergovernmental Affairs were made available for inquiries
from 8 AM to 8 PM each day. DOE staff was available for visits
to Members’ offices on request.
As part of the Department of Energy’s response
to the blackout of August 14, there were a number of public communications
The Department issued a statement on August 14, coordinated by
Deputy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow, noting that DOE had initiated
its protocol for contingency situations. The statement noted
that DOE was working with appropriate agencies including FERC,
Regulatory Commission (NRC), FEMA, and DHS, as well as entities
such as the North American Electric Reliability Council to assess
The Department immediately updated its website
by adding a special section on its homepage with information
related to the blackout.
For example, all statements released from the Department were
highlighted, as was general information on transmission grids and
asked questions on electricity. Reporters and the public often
found answers to their questions. More than one reporter who
called DOE’s Office of Public Affairs noted the usefulness
of the website information.
DOE’s Office of Public Affairs answered hundreds of media
calls and interview requests on August 14 and in the days following.
An impromptu “blackout” media e-mail list was created
for quick access to these reporters. In addition, the Secretary
of Energy conducted multiple TV interviews from August 15 to
18 to communicate with the public on progress being made to resolve
As power began to be restored, the Secretary of Energy issued
a statement urging citizens of the areas affected by the blackout
to use caution in energy use while the system was coming back on
line. DOE worked with state and local officials on getting the
message out that appliance use should be cut back until systems
Following the blackout on August 14, President Bush and Prime
Minister Chretien established a Joint US-Canada Task Force to investigate
the cause of the blackout, discover why it spread to such a large
area, and determine ways to prevent any recurrence. Secretary Abraham
and Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Herb Dhaliwal serve
as Co-Chairs of that Task Force.
In addition to Secretary Abraham, the U.S. members of the Task
Force are Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security; Pat Wood,
Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and Nils
Diaz, Chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In addition
to Minister Dhaliwal, the Canadian members are Deputy Prime Minister
John Manley; Kenneth Vollman, Chairman of the National Energy Board;
and Linda J. Keen, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety
The Task Force has an enormous job. From the first
been in the field collecting and verifying vast amounts of detailed
data from power generating plants, control facilities, utilities,
and grid operators. In essence, they are busy gathering and analyzing
information on tens of thousands of individual events that occurred
over 34,000 miles of voltage transmission lines and involved
hundreds of power generating units and thousands of substations,
facilities, and circuit protection devices. The teams have been
interviewing and collecting records on the numerous people, policies,
and procedures that play a part in our complex power infrastructure.
The investigation is being conducted through three separate yet
coordinated working groups focused on the Electric System, Nuclear
Power, and Security.
The Electric System Working Group, led by experts at the Energy
Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission along with
Natural Resources Canada, is focusing on the transmission infrastructure,
its management, and its functioning.
The Nuclear Power Working Group, managed by the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, is examining
the performance of nuclear plants in the affected area during the
The Security Working Group, which is managed by
the Department of Homeland Security and the Canadian government’s
Privy Council Office, is assessing the security aspects of the
including cyber security.
The good news is that these groups are making real headway. On
September 12, the Task Force released a detailed timeline of events
that led up to the blackout. This timeline is an essential tool
for reconstructing the events of August 14 so that we can successfully
understand exactly what caused the blackout.
The Electric System Working Group’s assignment
is challenging due to the sheer size and complexity of interrelationships
the diverse components of the electricity infrastructure. Recognizing
the scope of this challenge, the Electric Systems Group has enlisted
additional expert assistance. Technical experts with the Independent
System Operators in the affected regions and with NERC are working
with members of this group to determine how all the events are
interrelated. They are also examining the procedures and control
mechanisms that were designed to prevent a blackout from spreading
from one area to another.
The Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology
Solutions (CERTS), which has broad expertise in transmission
and power delivery
issues, is also assisting with Working Group. This team includes
the world’s top authorities on power system dynamics, transmission
engineering and reliability, grid configuration, wholesale power
markets, and outage recovery.
This group led the study of the 1996 blackout in the West and also
helped DOE produce the comprehensive National Transmission Grid
Study that recommended grid upgrades to meet transmission demands
in the 21st century. Transmission experts from the Bonneville Power
Administration are also providing technical assistance.
The Security Working Group includes members from DHS, DOE, the
National Security Agency, the United States Secret Service, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation, and NERC. This group is examining
whether a physical or cyber security breach contributed to the
cause of the blackout.
The Security Working Group is working with the
other Task Force Working Groups; developing an inquiry plan that
detailed timeline for review of data including forensics, and interviews
of company representatives to better understand each company’s
cyber topology; and working to obtain the detailed supporting
data that will allow the team to better understand what caused,
not cause, or may have contributed to the events of August 14.
In summary, our vast energy infrastructure is built,
managed, operated, regulated, and overseen by a large number
Coordination among these stakeholders is essential to help prevent
energy outages and ensure quick response and recovery if one
occurs. The Department of Energy’s planning and coordination
efforts prior to the August 2003 blackout laid the groundwork for
coordination after the blackout occurred. The blackout timeline
released by the Joint US-Canada Task Force will allow the working
groups to move forward in uncovering the root causes of the blackout.
We are putting the puzzle together and proceeding as quickly
as possible without sacrificing accuracy.